I’m too disorganized for real-time strategy. I’ve had my fill of fast-paced flight games. I’d don’t want to play another minigame collection ever again.
But I’ve found that I love all of these games in virtual reality, and it’s not just about novelty.
On Monday, Oculus VR held an event as part of the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco to show off the roster of games coming to the Rift head-mounted display, and by the end of the day I realized that I was enjoying nearly everything I tried. That includes games I’ve played before on other platforms and didn’t really care for. Analysts with tech adviser Digi-Capital think VR is going to grow into a $30 billion industry by 2020, and it’s easier to imagine that reality knowing that I want sports sims, role-playing games, and everything else in the Rift.
I tried out a variety of Oculus Rift games as part of the company’s event. I did VR Sports, where I used the Touch motion controllers to throw a basketball behind my back and over my shoulder while going up for a dunk in slow motion. That’s a unique “experience” that I haven’t had in any other game, and it’s one that I can’t wait to try with my friends and family. But I already knew that novel new ways of gaming is a big selling point for VR.
What surprised me more than VR Sports is a the game AirMech: Command, which is a continuation of the AirMech game that first came out for PC back in 2012.
AirMech is a third-person arena battler. It is essentially an action real-time strategy game that forces you to manage troops around a map while also flying your own mech around. I tried the original game a few years ago, and I appreciated what it was trying to do. But I also bounced off that iteration for the same reason I fall off of most RTS releases: I have a hard time managing the map. In a lot of RTS games, AirMech included, you only ever see a small portion of the map at a time. For me, it’s hard to keep the off-screen parts of the map in my head. And that’s not a skill I’ve wanted to spend a lot of time developing.
But Airmech in VR is completely different in this regard. Instead of having narrow tunnel vision, the Rift version makes it feel like you are playing a dynamic tabletop game. The board sprawls out in front of you, and you can see more things at once. I can navigate a board game with no problems because it’s part of the real world. And thanks to Rift, AirMech: Command might as well be a part of the real world. It amazed me how fast AirMech clicked with me thanks to this more intimate perspective.
I only got to play it for around 30 minutes, but this is a day-one purchase for me. I can’t wait to lose hours to this game, which takes advantage of VR in an unexpected way.
Like AirMech, Crytek’s The Climb uses the Xbox One controller as its primary input device. That’s interesting because The Climb is a game about using your hands to scale a mountain. You’d think this would make it ideal for the Rift’s Touch controller, and it’s possible that Crytek will implement that in the future. But playing it with a gamepad emphasized again how interesting VR can make everything. The Climb is something that I think I would enjoy even on a monitor or television. It is a series of environmental puzzles where you need to figure out where to put your hands while ensuring you are always gripping to the wall by holding down a trigger button. It’s clever, and it has a lot of potential for racing against your friends’ times.
But playing The Climb had me jazzed. It was another game I just wanted to keep playing for hours. It was so much to make a difficult jump and then look down to see how far I would’ve fallen had I missed. But it also makes the moment-to-moment gameplay more immediate and interesting. I really remember feeling like I was hugging the side of that mountain, and I was leaning my head around to see what my options were for my next hand placement.
After getting time with AirMech and The Climb, I am imagining getting other games I would typically play on a console in VR. I’d love something like a 16-bit Japanese RPG where I can play the game from in third-person and see all of the awesome spells happening, like I they were happening right down in front of me — and I’ve never finished a JRPG in my life.
And I think it’s important to realize that VR isn’t about 15 minute “experiences.” It is about breathing new life into older genres. That’s something we’re getting when it comes to the Rift launch platformer Lucky’s Tale, but I hope we get even more because I can already tell that I’ll struggle to return to a 2D static screen after playing VR.